President Obama is expected to propose “a three-year freeze on federal funding that is not related to national security.” He will unveil this proposal tomorrow night in his State of the Union address.
The “freeze” appears to be something of a phony. According to the Washington Post, it would not apply to “entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” “would not restrain funding for the $787 billion economic stimulus package Obama pushed through Congress early last year,” would not “apply to a new bill aimed at creating jobs,” and would be “unlikely to affect the approximately $900 billion health-care bill.” (HT: Ed Whelan)
In fact, when all is said and done, it would only apply to approximately 11 percent of the budget, according to Veronique de Rugy. The portion of the budget that represents $3.3 trillion in fiscal 2010 would still be permitted to grow.
Nonetheless, the proposed “freeze” may be a tough sell when it comes to congressional Democrats. House Democrats reportedly have already rejected the idea of a freeze, though perhaps Obama can persuade them that what he’s pitching is sufficiently innocuous.
In any event, this is a good political move for Obama. It will enable him to sound in his State of the Union address as if he’s gotten the message on spending. If his “freeze” is enacted, he can continue to tout it. If the Democrats block it, he will have laid the groundwork for “triangulating” in the future, if that becomes necessary.
UPDATE: Obama rejected a spending freeze during the 2008 campaign. During one of his debates with John McCain, who supported a freeze, Obama said:
[A]n across-the-board spending freeze is a hatchet, and we do need a scalpel, because there are some programs that don’t work at all. There are some programs that are underfunded. And I want to make sure that we are focused on those programs that work.